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A. Betancourt: Alliance for Peace

USA and Latin America: Toward an Alliance for Peace

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Whether we like it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, the world is marching toward one world in terms of information, technology, communications, and transportation. The world is becoming one global village. At a much slower pace, the world is becoming one human family. However, we are still very divided and dysfunctional, often at war over differences of opinion, ideology, religion, race, class, nationality, economy, and resources. 

The process of globalization is happening in regional blocs. Some are more advanced than others. The European Union had its origins in economic and industrial agreements and is advancing toward an actual political union and common constitution. Similar processes are at work in Asia and Africa. Some are moving fast, and some are slow.  

In the Western hemisphere, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon has been talking about the integration of South America, fulfilling the dream of founding fathers such as Jose de San Martin and Simon Bolivar. Bolivar was the liberator of five republics: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. At that time Panama was a province of Colombia; so in effect, six republics were liberated by him. Like George Washington in the US, he refused to become an emperor after liberation. The crown of emperor was offered to him and he said, “I did not fight for the freedom of the people in order to impose the very system that we liberated ourselves from.” His motto was "In the unity of our nations rests the glorious future of our peoples," and he worked for a liberation that would bear fruit in unity. 

Father Moon conceives of unity among North, Central, and South America together with the Caribbean in the context of world integration, specifically among the countries of the Pacific Rim. He sees the necessity of having the North American colossus engage in good neighborly relations with the nations to its south as a prerequisite for fulfilling its role as an exemplary good neighbor to the rest of the world. 

For too long, Latin America has not been the focus of the United States. It is too often outside the concerns of US media, finance, and commerce. If the United States would pay the same attention to Latin America as it pays to East Asia and Europe, the Latin American economies would be stronger partners with the US. The United States used its economic strength to contain communism in Korea, China, and Europe by lowering tariffs and investing in manufacturing. It should consider similar policies for Latin America 

Rev. Moon is saying that for the US to be a good neighbor, it must set the example of playing by the rules. He refers to the Biblical paradigm of Cain and Abel in describing the relative roles of nations. An "Abel-type” nation, in the biblical sense, is a brother who serves God and has developed a system that can turn ideas into resources and wealth. This is in contrast to Cain, who in the biblical account became resentful and angry when his offering was not accepted. Cain is like the poor person who cannot decide what he is going to do each day to overcome his poverty. Even though there are resources everywhere, he does not know how to mobilize what he is sitting on top of. The US has to be a "good Abel" and unite with Latin America, which has many resources. The peoples of the US and Latin America have a common destiny, and they should jointly set an example for Europe and the rest of the world. 

As the process of globalization is bringing standardization in areas such as transportation, communication, health, human rights, judicial procedures, and law, it needs a new ethical system. Father Moon wants to inspire us to work toward the integration of North America and South America based on universal core principles that people of faith hold in common and thereby set an example for the rest of the world. The world needs a standardization of basic ethical values that can bring us together as one family under God. 

This exercise is not new. It was instrumental in the creation of AULA, the Association for the Unity of Latin America, in 1984. Father Moon gave funds to renovate Simon Bolivar’s house in Cartagena, Colombia. We began by gathering the surviving founders of the Alliance for Progress (which later became the Peace Corps) established by US President John Kennedy and the Inter-American Development Bank. We asked them to help develop ideas that would promote Latin American integration. Out of this grew the ideas for the Summit of the Americas as well as the Ibero-American Summit. 

We hosted meetings of some of the brightest minds of the Western Hemisphere, and the alumni of these conferences made substantial progress from 1984 to 1992 and foreshadowed the establishment of MERCOSUR, which brought together Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay in 1991 as a model for a common market for South America, and likewise the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the US, and Mexico which was birthed in 1994. 

Although we were working for integration, our primary goal at that time was to present ideas as a counterproposal to the Sovietization of Latin America and the world. Thus, when the Soviet experiment collapsed in 1991, our priorities shifted. Now we are revisiting this goal of greater unity. 

Before there can be unity, Father Moon calls us to address the spiritual division between North and South, which is in part a division between the Protestant culture and the Catholic culture. In 1996, Father Moon, with the help of the International Religious Foundation, brought nearly 10,000 Catholic and Protestant Christians from throughout Latin America to Montevideo, Uruguay, for a series of conferences. There he taught approximately a thousand Christian leaders every week for ten weeks, in order to lay a foundation for integrating diverse traditions within Latin American Christianity. 

Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians have to unite and speak with one voice in order to preserve the sacred legacy and relevance of the holy texts that we inherited from our forefathers, or else the secular world will impose on us all one global culture devoid of God and spirituality, based on human-made values and assumptions. Christians of different traditions need to dialogue with each other first, and then with people of other faiths: Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Baha’is, Buddhists, Confucianists, etc. 

In addition to dialogue and mutual understanding, the religious groups in the Americas need to work together for integration based on interreligious service, meeting the real needs of their people. Rev. Moon set the example through the Religious Youth Service, which organizes projects that promote the culture of service and living for the sake of others. It has sponsored more than thirty service projects throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, many of them with the support of local and national governments as well as religious communities. 

One essential project for the unification of North and South is to close of the gap in the Pan American Highway. You cannot drive directly from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, because you need a boat or a plane to cross the swamps in the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia. The development of the Pan American Highway stalled in the twentieth century because the technology for digging tunnels through swamps was not well developed. Today, that technology exists. 

Uniting first South America and then all the Americas is a dream that we can make a reality within the next ten to fifty years. Bit by bit, we can bring people together through real efforts of service, connecting people within nations, connecting people of neighboring nations with each other, and eventually connecting the Americas as we advance toward our goal of one unified global family under God. 

Originally from Colombia, Dr. Antonio Betancourt has worked for the past thirty years in international affairs. He has been program director for the Middle East Peace Initiative since its inception in 2003 and worked with the Northeast Asia Peace Initiative. This address was given at Universal Peace Federation’s International Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, in December 2007.